Tanwen Evans trailed after the middle-aged bellman and walked through the automatic doors into the six-story foyer of the Sodom Virtual Reality Resort. Her breath froze in her lungs, and she gawked like the country mouse her ex-husband had often accused her of being. It wasn’t the size of the resort that had her staring -- the University of Wisconsin hospital where she worked as a labor and delivery nurse was a mammoth complex -- it was the people. She had expected a little risqué behavior. This was the premier virtual reality resort that catered to sexual fantasies, but this -- this was like her hottest, steamiest, and kinkiest fantasies come to life.
Times a million.
Everywhere she looked, men and women of all ages, races, and sizes strolled around the enormous foyer in varying degrees of bondage gear. The bellman paused so a man with a saddle on his back and horseshoe gloves could trot past them. On his back, a buxom blonde in a black leather cowboy hat, vest, and chaps with a pink G-string steered him through the crowd via a set of rains attached to a mouth bit. To Tanwen’s astonishment, the rider and…horse were grinning as if they were having the time of their lives. The man even had a luxuriant horse tail attached to his leather pants, and he moved with a decidedly sexy swagger that made the tail swish.
A flash of shiny red latex caught her eye, and Tanwen froze as she watched a mature brunette woman kneel before a man dressed in a conservative, dark suit. Upon closer inspection, she noticed he wore a tie the same color as the woman’s dress, and they both wore wedding rings. The woman gracefully lowered her face until her lips were pressed to the tip of his shoe, and she kissed his foot with a smile. The man stroked the woman’s hair as she laid her head against his thigh, a look of utter contentment on her face and love on his.
An unexpected surge of jealousy ran through Tanwen. She briefly wished she had someone in her life she could trust like that. A strong man who would look at her as if she were the center of his world. Even though nothing in the man’s posture or facial expression had changed, he became more predatory somehow. His demeanor toward the woman shifted, and Tanwen felt a rush of heat. The tone of the scene turned sensual as the man fed one of his fingers into the woman’s mouth with a slow, erotic slide.
When Tanwen had boarded the plane this morning for Detroit in her brown suede skirt and white peasant top that hung off one freckled shoulder, she had felt sexy and a little bit scandalous. Now, compared to the busty brunette in a latex catsuit who had just sauntered by leading a very built man wearing only a leash and a glittering mesh codpiece, she felt positively matronly.
The bellman jolted her out of her openmouthed stare by clearing his throat. “Ma’am, if you’d like to register at the front desk, I’ll wait for you by the elevators.”
“Sure,” she said in a faint voice yet continued to stand there.
The bellman smothered a smile and gently turned her by the shoulder. “The registration is that way. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait in line. The Leather Kiss convention starts tonight, and there are a lot of people all arriving at once.” He leaned in and said in a low voice, “Between you and me, I’d rather have a BDSM convention here than just about any other group. They may look wild, but for the most part, they are very well behaved and tip great. Much better than the Spring Break crowd. If I never have to see another drunk kid passed out in a puddle of his own puke, I’ll die a happy man.”
The luggage rack jostled as a young couple dressed in jeans and T-shirts stumbled into them. The look they gave Tanwen bordered on shock, and she gave them a weak smile in return. Guess she wasn’t the only one not expecting so much so soon.
“I better get out of the way,” the bellman said with a soft laugh. “Maybe we should set up some chairs at the entrance in case anyone faints.”
Tanwen took a deep breath and shook her head. “Thank you” -- she glanced at his name tag -- “Mike. I’ll see you at the elevators.”
Her sandals made almost no noise on the white marble floors, and she felt like she was floating in some weird and rather erotic dream. Two years ago, if someone had told her that today she would be starting a weeklong vacation dedicated to exploring her sexual fantasies in hopes of reawakening her desire, she would have said they were crazy. Then again, two years ago, she had been in an unhappy marriage to the only man she had ever slept with. Heck, David had been the only man she had ever even seriously dated.
When she had discovered she was pregnant her senior year of high school, they had done the right thing and gotten married. At least at the time it had seemed like the right thing. Now, twenty years later, she realized how very naive they'd both been and how easily they were pushed into marriage by their families. Oh, they made the best of it and to this day were still on speaking terms despite the divorce. She wouldn’t give up her sons for anything in the world, but somewhere along the line, she had lost who she was.
As she reached the back of the line and adjusted her purse, she tried to figure out when exactly she had gone from being Tanwen, the free-spirited girl who wanted to backpack through Europe after high school, to Tanwen, the woman who didn’t own a pair of underwear that couldn’t be described as anything but functional. Not that she really had anyone to wear sexy lingerie for. David had always said they looked trashy and cheap, so she had given up trying to look good for him years ago. When making love consisted of a pat, a tickle, and a squeeze, it had become more of a chore than anything else and not something she bothered to dress up for.
The line inched forward, and Tanwen groaned as a high-pitched female voice rose into the air from the desk. A peek around a set of broad shoulders in a blue denim shirt showed a stunning auburn-haired woman in an outlandish yellow latex ballerina costume yelling at the increasingly irritated lady behind the desk.
“Are you listening to me! I don’t care what your reservation list says. I reserved a suite, and you better damn well get me a suite or I’m going to sue you.” The redhead thrust her overinflated breasts, barely contained by her yellow corset, into the air with an arrogant toss of her head. The pretty blonde behind the counter pressed her lips together in a thin line, and her nostrils flared.
A deep male voice said in her ear, “How long do you think we have until the clerk decks her?”
Tanwen jumped and narrowly avoided bumping heads with the tall man in front of her who had leaned over to whisper. The one whose shoulder she had been peering around like a nosy old woman. “Oh goodness. I’m sorry, sir.” Heat flooded her face as she tugged at her shirt. “That was very rude of me. Please forgive me.”
She met his eyes, and the floor dropped out beneath her feet. He was gorgeous. His silver hair was cut short, and it did nothing to soften a face that was all male angles and hard planes. His skin was deeply tanned, the kind of color someone got from working outdoors. Small lines bracketed his pale blue eyes, and deeper lines curved around his mouth. A dimple flashed in his cheek as he smiled at her in amusement. The fact that he bore a striking resemblance to Anderson Cooper, her secret celebrity crush, made her heart pound all the harder.
“No, that” -- he pointed to the redhead who was in a full-tilt fit now as a pale man with an enormous padlocked collar around his neck and wearing a conservative suit joined her and attempted to mediate -- “is rude.”
Tanwen darted another glance at the woman, then back to the man standing close enough that she swore she could feel the heat of his body. A faded leather belt clung to his narrow hips, and the elaborate buckle of a bucking steer with a cowboy caught her interest. “You’re a bull rider?” She cleared her throat and held out her hand. “Please forgive my lack of manners, sir. My name is Tanwen Sku --” Her tongue tripped over itself as she almost gave the handsome man her married name. “Tanwen Evans.”
The man with the devastating eyes took her offered hand and rubbed his thumb over her palm. His hands were so much bigger than hers, and the way his thumb stroked her skin sent shivers through her body. Her reaction shocked her. She could actually feel her nipples drawing into hard and aching points beneath her shirt. She desperately hoped he didn’t notice or attributed it to the air-conditioning. “My name is Bryan Hamilton, but you can call me Sir.” He studied her, and her heart raced as he looked her over from the top of her blonde head to her pink toenails.
“Um, nice to meet you, Sir.” She tried to tug her hand back, but he held her fast in his grip. Heat rushed through her, and her mouth went dry. She was drawn in by his gaze, and her breath came out in a small puff as he stepped closer, invading her personal space.
His low laughter made her knees go weak as the rich scent of his cologne invaded her senses. “You’re not here for the convention, are you, Tanwen?”
She swallowed and darted a glance at the fetish circus going on around them. “No.”
His gaze held hers, and his fair eyebrows scrunched as he examined her. “Why are you here?”
The words spilled out of her mouth before she had a chance to stop them. “I lost my passion.”
Instead of laughing, his ice blue eyes darkened to a warm Caribbean blue. He let go of her hand to cup her cheek, and she trembled. “Now that is a shame. A woman as beautiful as you should never feel anything but cherished, desired.” His thumb stroked across her lips. It was as if every nerve in her body now centered on her mouth. She watched him, helpless to look away as the dimple in his cheek deepened again.
Someone behind them cleared their throat loudly, and Tanwen practically leaped away from Bryan. “Your turn,” she said in a high voice she refused to call a squeak.
Now he did smile, and his teeth were a startling white against his tanned skin. “Ladies first, in all things.”
“Thank you.” She stumbled to the counter and tried to tell her raging libido he couldn’t possibly mean anything dirty by that. Her frazzled mind barely heard a word the clerk said as she dug through her oversize purse for her wallet. After years of carrying around things in her purse for her kids, she scarcely knew what to do with all the empty space now that their toys, snacks, Band-Aids , and everything else were gone.
It didn’t help that her entire being focused on the man behind her. She could feel him, like the warmth of the sun, at her back. Between her legs, her pussy was wet with need, and her clit throbbed in time with her heart.
“All set,” the blonde clerk said and handed her the key card. “Go to the south elevators, and you’re on the nineteenth floor with a view of the river. Your convention pass is in your room along with the schedule of events.”
Tanwen paused in putting some old receipts back into her purse. “My what?”
The blonde gave her a puzzled look. “Your Leather Kiss convention information. You signed up for it while registering.”
Someone muttered something unflattering from the long line behind her, and her back stiffened. She stuffed the key into her purse and crammed the brochures in there as well. Good Lord, the cover of one of the pamphlets had what appeared to be a man in chaps with his fine butt displayed for all the world to see. She dug the brochures back out and lay them on the counter. All she needed was to forget it was in there and have it fall out in front of her mother. “I didn’t sign up for the” -- she lowered her voice -- “BDSM convention.”
The clerk glanced at the line behind Tanwen, then back at her. “Ma’am, you did. I have it right on the screen in front of me along with your paid-in-full bill.”
“But I didn’t --”
A firm hand gripped her elbow, and Tanwen knew even without turning that it was Bryan. His cologne teased her nose as he said, “Thanks for your help.” He gently escorted her away from the counter and held firm to her arm despite her attempts to jerk out of his grasp.
“Wait,” she said and yanked her arm out of his hand. “There was a mistake. I’m not --”
“Tanwen, that is a lovely name.” His voice rubbed against her, softer than her suede skirt.
She gritted her teeth and willed her body to calm down. Really all he’d done was speak to her and touch her cheek, and her panties were soaked with desire. “It’s Welsh for white flame. When I was born, my hair was so pale it almost looked white. Now let me go.”
He ignored her order. “White flame, interesting. It suits you.”
She tilted her chin and gave him the glower that had kept her boys in line when they were rowdy teenagers. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to speak to the clerk about the mix-up.”
He moved subtly to block her way back to the desk and smiled at her. The way he looked at her, like she was something good to eat, did funny things to her insides. It made her anger melt like a bar of chocolate on a sunny day. He traced his fingertips down her arm, and she hoped he didn’t notice how she trembled. “I think you should leave things as they are.”
“What?” She glared at him as he placed a firm hand on her lower back and moved toward the wall. That fierce look turned into a gasp as she noticed he'd moved her so some men in distractingly tight leather pants could wheel a big metal X through the foyer. She wondered how Bryan would look in a pair of pants like that.
She pushed at his chest and narrowed her eyes at him when he didn’t move. “Listen, Sir, I don’t know what kind of women you’re used to, but I assure you I’m not into that…stuff. Your macho he-man attitude doesn’t impress me.”
Amusement sparkled in his eyes. “Really? Is that why your nipples are hard right now, little flame?” He leaned closer as she gasped and crossed her arms. “Are you afraid you might like it? That you might find what’s been missing is something your mother wouldn’t approve of?”
“I-I’m not into such deviant behavior,” she said in a low voice and glanced around to make sure none of the BDSM crowd had heard her. In reality she admired them for their ability to follow their hearts, but there was no way she was letting this man know that. He’d probably toss her over his shoulder and take her to his room and do things with her -- wonderful, forbidden things.
“Deviant?” He leaned closer, and his breath was hot against her ear as he said, “If you consider making a submissive overcome her fear of pleasure, making her orgasm until she can’t remember her name, making her feel like she is the only thing in the world that matters deviant, well, I suppose I am.”
Her throat worked as she tried to remember how to breathe. Up close he was overwhelming. She had an insane desire to run her fingers through his silver hair and feel if it was as soft as it looked. It didn’t help that her body had suddenly decided it did indeed want to try all that deviant stuff with someone like him.
No. She’d promised herself she would experiment in the safety and anonymity of VR. This was too much, too soon, and Bryan was definitely dangerous to her newfound independence. She had learned how to stand on her own feet these last two years, and it was a hard and painful lesson she didn’t want to repeat. Having a relationship was strictly off limits.
Besides, strong women weren’t submissive, couldn’t be submissive. In fact, maybe she was a dominatrix. Yeah, that was it. She wanted to be the one wielding the whip. Well, actually the thought of whipping anyone made her ill, but she’d spank them and call them names that didn’t involve swear words.
“Thank you, but no.” She ducked out from beneath his arm, and her body yelled at her in protest. “I must be on my way. Good day, Sir.”
“Wait,” he said in a low voice, and her feet froze to the spot. How did he do that?
“Really, I --”
He gestured toward her shoulder where her blouse had slipped down. “What’s the tattoo of?”
She tugged at her shirt and tried to ignore his bemused smile. “It’s a phoenix rising from the ashes.”
His intense gaze held her for another moment before he hooked his thumbs into his belt. “You surprise me, little flame. Not many people can do that anymore.”
Before she could think of an adequate response, a young and high-breasted brunette dressed as some type of beer girl from a porno movie knelt next to Bryan and asked in a seductive voice, “Master, may I serve you?”
Tanwen’s heart lurched as she compared her body, which had given birth to two babies, with the unmarked and taut frame of the younger woman. Bryan didn’t even glance at her, looking instead down at the brunette with an inscrutable expression. Without another word, Tanwen spun on her heel and marched into the crowd, feeling like a fool.
* * * * *
Bryan gritted his teeth and glared at airheaded girl who wouldn’t leave him alone. As a founding member of the Leather Kiss convention, he never lacked in attention from submissives that wanted the attention that came with being his sub. This particular girl had been stalking him from the moment he entered the hotel, and he was getting tired of trying to nicely turn her down. Some people just couldn’t take a hint. “Brandy, I told you not to call me that. I’m not and never will be your master.”
She looked at him through her fake eyelashes and pouted. “Forgive me, Sir. Would you like to punish me?”
He grimaced down at her. She treated him like he was some young dom who would be fooled into giving her what she wanted. “No. Go away.”
The blonde clerk from the front desk hurried to him with some papers in her hand. “Excuse me. Your friend, Ms. Evans, left these on the counter.”
Without bothering to correct her, he gave her a charming smile. “Thank you. I’ll make sure Ms. Evans gets it.”
He moved swiftly through the crowd, trying to follow the pretty blonde woman as she jammed herself into an elevator with her luggage. She must have seen him coming, because her soft cheeks flooded with color and her big hazel eyes grew wide. Before he could reach them, the elevator doors closed. He could almost hear her sigh of relief.
Disbelief followed by amusement had him shaking his head as he stared at the closed doors of the elevator. It had been a long time since a submissive had run away from him. He’d actually become used to subs falling all over his feet at his local BDSM club. He felt a flash of chagrin as he realized he’d become accustomed to the adoration.
A boisterous group of young men dressed in leather piled out of one of the elevators, and he moved out of the way. He enjoyed seeing the next generation experimenting and embracing the BDSM lifestyle, but he wouldn’t trade the experiences that had made him the man he was now for any chance at a second youth. One of the young men gave his partner a kiss while another guy in their group gave them a jealous glare.
That kind of drama he for sure didn’t miss. When you’re young, everything is a crisis. The last sub he’d had as a girlfriend had been fifteen years his junior, and he'd soon grown tired of her fits if he had to work late or her meltdowns over the littlest things. He mentally winced as he recounted how many young women he’d been with over the past four years. For the first time in a long time, he felt he needed a woman who had some experience, a lady in the finest sense of the word. Someone like his late wife.
He sighed and pushed that thought out of his mind and heart. Six years ago, his submissive and wife had passed away from breast cancer. It had taken him a long time to learn how to deal with the hole she left. Her passing had given him a new respect for living every day to its fullest. Katie had such a zest for life, and he missed her.
A high-pitched voice cut through his thoughts, and he rolled his eyes as the noisy redhead domme who had given the desk clerk such a hard time berated the bellman for being slow. Her submissive male was standing off to the side, looking decidedly unhappy and watching her with narrowed eyes. If Bryan had been a betting man, he would have put a thousand dollars down that the submissive wouldn’t be with that domme much longer.
As the redhead pranced across the foyer in her high-heeled black boots, Bryan shook his head in disgust. The BDSM lifestyle attracted its share of assholes and bitches who used the dom title to act like complete jerks, and they annoyed the hell out of him. To them a submissive wasn’t someone to cherish and protect; they were objects to fulfill the wanna-be dom’s own selfish desires.
He considered talking to the other founding members of Leather Kiss and having her kicked out but decided to just have her watched instead. His gut told him she was trouble, and he’d be damned if any subs got hurt on his watch because of her. A quick glance at the front desk showed that the line was as long as ever, and he decided to call in a personal favor instead of dealing with that hassle again.
The papers in his hand crinkled, reminding him of the lovely little blonde who had made him rock hard while she trembled beneath his fingertips. If it was just a grocery list or something of that nature, he could probably just throw it away, but if it was something important, he would give it back to the clerk and let her send it to Tanwen’s room.
Oh, he could probably find out her room number and deliver it in person, but he had a feeling that wasn’t the right way to approach her. At first he had mistaken her for a sub because of her calling him Sir, but he quickly realized she was just a polite person. He’d always loved that in a woman. The edge of class and manners usually hid a fiery passion. The way her big hazel eyes had widened as their hands met had furthered his impression she was a sub, and the little tremor that ran through her body as he invaded her personal space had called to the dom in him.
She reacted in every way like an experienced submissive, so he’d been surprised when she claimed otherwise. He wondered if he was the first dom she had ever met. Considering her shocked reaction to everything going on around them, he was pretty sure he was. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, and her finger showed no indent or tan line from having worn one anytime recently, but the way she’d stumbled over her last name told him she’d been someone other than Tanwen Evans.
Tanwen wasn’t ready to admit she was a sub, but he’d stake his reputation as a dom that with the right master, she’d be amazing. Already his mind had set on the idea of that master being him. He’d have to approach her as carefully as he would a skittish cat. Too much too soon and she would never come to him. It had to be just the right touch, the ability to let her know he could make her purr like no other man.
The first piece of paper was the itinerary for the convention, but the folded blue floral stationary behind looked like something personal. After opening the piece of paper he frowned as he read the feminine handwritting:
The Phoenix List
1) Relearn the pleasure of kissing.
2) Find out if the different types of orgasms really exi --
As soon as he realized what he was reading, he stopped and immediately felt guilty. This wasn’t a grocery list; this was some kind of wish list. He carefully folded the note and placed it in his pocket, removing the temptation to read more before he turned it in to the front desk. His mind raced as he imagined showing her just how enjoyable kissing could be, of feasting on her lips until they were pink and swollen. The things he could show her, the pleasure he could give her would blow her wish list out of the water.
Reality intruded in the form of his old friend Luke’s voice booming across the foyer. “Sarge, you made it.”
Bryan couldn’t help but smile as he spied Luke working his way through the crowd toward him. Their friendship went back to when they were both in the military and Bryan had been Luke’s drill sergeant. “Luke, good to see you.”
Dressed in an impeccable black suit with a pale blue tie that matched his eyes, Luke looked more like a blond GQ model than ever. His teeth flashed white in his tanned face as they shook hands. “Glad I found you in all this chaos. I was wondering if you would want to join me and my family for dinner tonight.”
Bryan glanced down at Luke’s hands and grinned. Luke wore a gold wedding band on each hand, one for his wife, Maeve, and the other for his husband, Angel. Not a conventional relationship by any means, but it worked for them, and Bryan envied their happiness. “I’m afraid I’ll have to pass tonight. I need to be there for the opening celebration at dinner. How about lunch tomorrow?”
“Sounds good.” Luke looked over Bryan’s shoulder at the ever growing line and frowned. “You checked in yet?”
“Not yet. Think you could pull some strings for me?”
Luke nodded as he removed his cell phone from his suit pocket and began to text into it. “So am I finally going to get you into a simulation this year? You’re the only guy I know that comes to the world’s best VR resort and never sets foot in a fantasy.”
Bryan rubbed his lips and considered the note in his hand before putting it in his pocket. “Actually I think I will see what all the VR fuss is about.”
The smile that lit up Luke’s face made him appear five years younger. “Fantastic! I know you think it can’t be as good as real life, but wait until you see the exotic zoo we have set up for your group in VR. It’s amazing. Over two hundred people sharing the same fantasy on a fifty-acre site complete with a hunting preserve. I guarantee you, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Took forever to get the network to handle the demand, but with the new --”
“Well” -- he ran his hand over the pocket containing Tanwen’s note -- “I have something of a more personal nature in mind. I need you to make sure that I get to be in a particular lady's fantasies.”
The amusement fled Luke’s gaze, and his back stiffened. “Bryan, you know we keep everything strictly confidential. I wouldn’t feel right abusing our guests’ privacy like that, and I’m more than a little surprised you would even ask me to do that.”
Bryan had to rein in his temper. “I’m not talking about putting me in without her knowledge. That would be dishonorable and just flat-out wrong. If she puts out a -- what do you guys call it? -- an open invitation for others to join her VR fantasy, I just want first dibs. If her call is for girls or married couples or anything like that, I’ll bow out. But if it’s for a guy and I fit the criteria, I’m just asking for a chance to make her fantasy as amazing as possible.”
Luke considered him, and Bryan returned his gaze. Finally Luke sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “All right. Give me her name, and I’ll give you first dibs on her fantasy if she wants anyone else to join her.”
“Thank you,” Bryan said, and a rush of excitement sent his pulse pounding like it hadn’t in years.
“You know I’m only doing this because I’m afraid if I don’t, you’ll use those dom superpowers on my employees in order to get your way.”
Bryan tried to fight a smile. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Luke shook his head and started for the front desk. “You are such a crappy liar. Let’s get you checked in, and I’ll see what I can do about making your wishes come true.”
Bryan couldn’t help but laugh. “What are you? My perverted fairy godmother?”
Luke snorted. “More like godfather. Be nice to me or I’ll make sure that in VR you have a two-inch dick and testicles the size of pimples.”